Discovering Kate


Our great-grandmother Kate was almost unknown to our parents' generation. We presumed her surname was Clarke, because the man who fathered her 11 children was called Clarke, and so are we. (Mmmmm, yes, well that turned out to be right, but only just). Her birth-name in 1865 was quickly established to be Davidge. But after some years of research we don't know whether she was known by it between the ages of 10 and 18, or whether she adopted her step-father's name, which was Russell. And it took some sleuthing to find that she'd died in 1931 as a Davies.

This page explains how we found out about Kate. For her life-story, see Kate's own web-page.

The Voyage of Discovery

Phase 0 – Pre-1990

Little was known about Kate Clarke by her grandsons Fred and Tony. As far as we can tell, they each met her at most once. They grew up in Portsmouth, whereas she was somewhere in South London. And she died when Fred was 14 and Tony not quite 12.

Their father, Willie Tony Clarke, who was Kate's 6th of 11 children, we think left home in London about 1908 at 16, and possibly saw her little after that, particularly after he moved to the Portsmouth area in 1915. Anne and I were only a couple of years old when we each briefly knew Willie Tony before emigrating to Australia with our parents; and funnily enough we didn't think to ask him.

It doesn't appear that any of Willie Tony's five children asked much either. Willie Tony appears not to have been very forthcoming about family, and it would have been impolite to press the matter. (It's important to allow for the natural reticence of respectable English people who were born in the 1915-1935 period and were talking with the next generation; but my sense of it is that not all that much information was withheld).

From what Roger gleaned from family-members at the outset, in the 1980s:

Phase 1 of The Hunt – 1990

By 1990, at age 40, Roger was becoming a little curious about his forebears.

Willie Tony's Birth Certificate had been held by at least his Aunty Enid since the 1950s, and by Roger since 1984. This showed Willie Tony's mother as:

Roger acquired a copy of the 1891 Census entry for the Lewisham address. This showed:

There's a wealth of information in there:

During a trip to the U.K. in 1990, Roger paid a visit to the Lewisham address. It was a vacant lot. The surroundings were consistent with the supposition that the house was on the edge of a cluster destroyed by a land-mine in about 1942. The adjacent building was intact, but still had heavy timber supports leaning against it where number 282 would once have been. The supports were probably installed in the mid-1940s, but were still there. The aftermath of WWII lasted as long in parts of the U.K. that had been subjected to the Blitz as it did in East Germany. [In 2008, the block was still vacant, but the supports had been replaced, and slowly, very slowly, the gaps were being filled in. After 66 years!!]

So, I reasoned at the time, the latest date at which a Clarke could have been at that address was about 1942.

The story of Anthony (which we unfolded over the next decade, and which is told in a separate, long document) shows that this was a forlorn hope: none of their lives were anywhere near as simple as that. Kate and (some of the time) Anthony resided there 1891/2-1897/8. Even the shortest possibility (March 1892 to August 1897 – 5 years and 5 months) – was quite likely the longest that Anthony was ever associated with a single address in all of his 81 years.

Phase 2 – 1990s – The Birth Certificate Search

These days, a lot is available on the Web (admittedly, for a price; but a lot less than an airfare from Australia to England). In the early 1990s, you had to get yourself to an appropriate place to see hard-copy indexes, and Roger was ignorant enough in such matters to have to be in London to do it.

At some time in the 1990s (I really can't remember when), a lookup of the names index from the March quarter of 1864 to the December quarter of 1874 found two possible Kate Davidges.

For the one that transpired to be correct, the details were:

Birth Certificates for four siblings of Kate were located and acquired, all born in Iwerne Courtney, providing the following family structure:

On son Henry's Birth Certificate, father Henry was shown as deceased. A reasonable conjecture was that he caused his wife to conceive, and that he was alive when he did it. So his date of death was presumably between January and October 1869, when his daughter Kate was 4 years old.

Phase 3 - 2001 – The 1881 Census

A copy of the 1881 Census was acquired by Roger during a trip to London in June 2001.

This shows that :

(Note that "son/daughter-in-law" appears to have been used in that Census entry to mean, or to include, what we would call "step-son/step-daughter").

(We've never clarified the provenance of Frederick R. Davidge. He might have been a cousin of Ellen's or Kate's; or an illegitimate son of Henry's – if so, then conceived when Henry was 17, and probably not by Ellen; or an illegitimate son of Ellen's – if so, then conceived when Ellen was 19, but never distanced from her, despite the social norms, the economic exigencies, and the 3-mile move she and Henry made).

At this stage, Kate Davidge's father, Henry, had been dead for 12 years, and the elder sisters Eliza Mary and Emma Jane (assuming both were alive) were 20 and 18 respectively, and no longer in the same household as the younger children.

The reasonable inference was that Ellen had re-married Isaac Russell (officially or de facto), between Henry's death in 1869 and the census in 1881.

Phase 4 – 2001 – A Visit to Iwerne Courtney

A visit to Iwerne Courtney in June 2001 established the following:

Phase 5 – 2001 – The Marriage Certificates

At this stage, Roger was running out of puff, and most of the huge amount of family history that has since been discovered is Anne's doing, with Roger coming along behind, shovel in hand, trying to organise the torrent of information into something manageable.

Anne located and acquired Kate’s parents’ Marriage Certificate in July 2001. That provided the following information:

Anne also located and acquired the second Marriage Certificate for Ellen following Henry’s death. The marriage of Isaac Russell and Ellen Davidge was registered in Blandford in September 1875, 6 years after Ellen was widowed, when Isaac would have been 32 and Ellen 36.

Phase 6 – 2002 – Kate's Life 1881-1904

Judging by the official records that we can find, Kate Davidge became involved with Anthony Clarke between April 1881 (the Census entry) and between April 1883 and April 1884 (when she became pregnant to him). It would be reasonable to interpolate that she became a servant in one of his successive households in and near London (which changed sometime after March 1882).

But she appears to have given birth to her first child (some time between February 1884 and February 1885) in Swansea. The reason for the uncertainty about the date is explained on the page belonging to that first child, Violet.

She had her second to fifth children in Cardiff. She presumably got to, or more likely back to, London between January 1890 (the fifth birth) and April 1891 (the Census entry in Lewisham).

The story of her married life is told in the lengthy document dedicated to her very interesting husband.

In brief, she had 11 children by Anthony between 1884/85 and 1904 (without, it appears, the benefit of a marriage certificate, even thought she and their children always used his surname). He abandoned her no earlier than 1904 and no later than 1910.

Phase 7 – 2003 – Kate's Later Years

For some years, Roger and Anne were stumped by the absence of a Death Certificate for Kate Davidge (or, indeed, any other entry in the official record after the birth of her 11th and last child in 1904).

Finally, in about 2003, Anne remembered that one of the witnesses on the Marriage Certificate of Anthony and Kate's 7th child, Lawrence, was a K. Davies. Postulating that this was Kate, and that Kate had remarried, she searched for a marriage between a Davidge and a Davies, and found it, in 1923, when Kate was 58 (and presumably – still – prettymuch destitute).

The marriage took place on 2 May 1923 at the Register Office, Edmonton. Kate Clarke was shown as 55 (actually 58), widow, of 146 Sirdar Road, Wood Green. Her father was shown as Henry Davidge, brewer (deceased) – well, actually a brewer's labourer. Philip Davies was shown as 58, widower, master blacksmith, of 62 Harringay Road, father Thomas Davies, a journeyman blacksmith (deceased). The witnesses were E.B. Clarke (presumably her son Edward Bertie, then 33) and L.G. Clarke (presumably her son Lawrence Gilbert, then just short of his 27th birthday, but not yet married).

That discovery in turn enabled Anne to search for Kate Davies' Death Certificate, which she duly found, in 1Q 1932 [but her death was actually in December 1931]. Kate passed on at age 66.

Phase 8 – 2002-03 – The Parham Line

Anne enquired in various electronic family history communities about the Davidges and Parhams.

In early 2002, (Sue Stead), from 7 miles south of Iwerne Courtney, provided a considerable tree of information about the Parham line.

Ellen Parham:

Phase 9 – 2002-03 – The Davidge Line

Also in early 2002, (Mr) provided a considerable tree of information about the Davidge line.

Among other things, this established that Pat is a full 4th cousin to Anne and Roger. The common forebear was Kate's grandfather, Morris (21 Apr 1798 - 2 Jun 1877). Pat is a great-great-grandson of Morris' 3rd child Thomas (1835-1911), and Anne and Roger are great-great-grandchildren of Morris' 6th child Henry (1841-1869).

Phase 9 – 2005-06 – Docwra and Watsons

In early 2005, we achieved contact with Dorothy Docwra (daughter of Kate's 7th child Laurance).

Then in early 2006, we were found by Vivian Watson in early 2006.

Their reports have filled out our understanding a great deal.

Vivian Watson is the source of the sole photo we're aware of, reduced at the top of this page, and available full size here. My first guess was that Kate was about 22 at the time of the photo, and hence that it was from c. 1887. But she had her third child in September 1887, and was in Cardiff. The firm of A.& G. Taylor is shown as "Photographer to the Queen", suggesting that perhaps the shot was taken in London.

She appears to have been in Swansea and Cardiff 1883/84-1890/91. If she was living in London when the photo was taken, then it would seem to be unlikely to have been before 1884/85 (when she was an 18/19-year-old servant); and more likely to be from when her household was first moved back to London, some time between Edward's birth in January 1890 (when she had just turned 25) and the census in April 1891, by which time she'd have been 26. So the photo seems more likely to be from when she was 25-26 rather than 22.

Phase 10 – 2009-12 – The Upper Davidge Line

In early 2009, Sharon Williams of Mississauga (Ontario), a distant Davidge cousin, made contact. She provided a copy of a large family-tree she referred to as the John Baker document. Apart from that we don't know its provenance, but it's (very largely) consistent with what we did know, and has pushed the Davidge line back another couple of generations to 1700. Three centuries is a lo-o-o-ong pedigree for a peasant family!

In early 2012, Nancy Frey, of Newcastle Ontario, contacted me. She said that the data from Sharon came originally from Nancy with respect to the UK Davidges and from Marilyn Davidge with whom Nancy is working on the Davidge people from Newfoundland. Nancy provided some further information she'd found on John Davidge (1702-52) and his probable forebears.

Other Possible Lines of Enquiry

The following have not yet been pursued:

That's all we've got; and we'd love to know more!

This a page within Roger Clarke's Family Web-Site

Contact: Roger Clarke and/or Anne Kratzmann

Created: 2001; Last Amended: 26 Apr 2009, 28 Jan 2012, 1 Jan 2021